Kansas Legislature's special session to deal with COVID-19 mandates

Sen. Caryn Tyson|Legislative Update

Usually, there is not much to write about when the legislature is not in session. That is not the case this year.  For the first time in Kansas history, 2/3 of the legislators signed a petition to force the Governor to call a special session. There have been 24 special sessions called in the past, but they were all called by the governor without a petition from legislators.  

The special session beginning Monday is a result of 29 (27 was required) senators and 84 representatives requesting the governor call a special session. All Kansas Republican legislators petitioned the Governor for a special session. The first special session was called in 1874. 

Tyson

Any topic can be discussed during a special session.  However, all indication is the session will deal with the federal government’s overreach on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.  

A special committee on government overreach and the impact of COVID-19 mandates is working to put together legislation for the special session. The Committee had informational hearings on two bill drafts. One bill draft would make it clear that a person who loses their job because they refuse to comply with the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional mandates may receive unemployment.  The other bill draft would strengthen the language in Kansas law regarding religious and medical exemptions so that these exemptions would be granted to Kansans who seek them. 

Contact Tracing

Last year KDHE put rules and regulations (regs) in place for contact tracing. The contact tracing rules and regs sunset on May 1, 2021. However, KDHE wants to continue to invade your privacy and a majority of legislators allowed it by extending KDHE’s contact tracing program to June 30, 2022, in a budget bill (CCR 159 – I voted no).  It may not seem like a big deal, but when you look at all of the government overreach from the federal government, it could be a big deal that the current administration is collecting medical information, individual movement, and other data.  

The data is being stored online at Saleforce.com. It is your option to deny providing the information, but you may not be told it is optional if it is a not a KDHE person calling. Contact tracing is collecting data on a person who may have been in contact with an infected person. KDHE said that they had 20 contact tracers and increased the number of tracers to 140 and are now at 129 tracers. Wow, 129 people (some out-state contractors) tracing Kansans movement. Keep in mind, KDHE is the department that was tracking Kansans by their cell phone movement last year.  I requested that this language be repealed in the legislation that will be considered during the special session.

Unemployment Oversight Council

The legislature formed an Oversight Council comprised of legislators and people from the industry who could be considered experts on unemployment. The council has made recommendations for a company to audit the unemployment system and the millions of dollars that were stolen using fraudulent unemployment claims.  This report should be complete in 2022.  

After the council studied the companies that applied to implement a new unemployment system, the Council recommended to the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) that the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) re-open the Request For Proposal (RFP) process. The original RFP was so poorly written that only 4 companies responded to the RFP. Two of the four companies that responded did such poor jobs implementing new systems in other states, the states would not hire them back. It doesn’t instill confidence moving forward with a new unemployment system which the state needs.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.     

Caryn